Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for Sunday, January 5, 2019
The Season of Epiphany
There are three main seasons in the Church year, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. Each of these is preceded by an anticipatory season, and after it passes, it is followed by a look-back-to-it season. Christmas is preceded by Advent and followed by Epiphany. Easter is preceded by Lent and is followed by five Sundays after Easter. Pentecost is preceded by Ascension and is followed by Sundays after Pentecost.
The Epiphany season as well Sundays after Pentecost are called Ordinary time 1 and 2 respectively because in them there’s no particular event in the life of Jesus that the church is celebrating. However, the term “ordinary” should not lead anyone to the understanding that these two periods are unimportant. Being called ordinary is not to relegate them to a lower class of importance. During these two seasons, the focus is on the life and ministry of our Lord as a whole.
The Season of Epiphany starts on January 6 when the church remembers the Magi or Wise men that came from the East to see baby Jesus. Sometimes they are referred to as kings. The Bible tells us neither which country they came from nor how many they were. They brought three gifts to baby Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Perhaps it was from the number of gifts that the tradition arose that they were three. They must have been highly schooled in astronomy if they could read from the formations of heavenly bodies and determine important events in the life of the earth.
The coming of these non-Jews to see and worship Jesus is a clear sign that the Messiah, Jesus, was not for Jews only but for all people of the world. In fact, the angel when announcing to the shepherds the birth of the savior, he said it was good news of great joy for all people (Luke 2:10). So Epiphany season is a season of looking back at the miracle of the incarnation and thanking God for our salvation. It is also a season of jubilation for us non-Jews that God has visited us with Himself and grafted us into his people. Now we eat at his high table just like Abraham’s seed. We are now of Abraham’s seed.
The season of Epiphany also emphasizes evangelism to ourselves and to the world. We now become the Magi, intentionally taking steps to seek to see Jesus and know him for ourselves. We also tell others about him so that they too may come and behold him and submit to him as Savior and Lord. Seeing and knowing Jesus for ourselves is not a one-time act, but a continuous one. One never stops growing in the knowledge of the things of God. And, growing in the knowledge of God is a personal matter. Everyone is responsible for oneself not for another. The Church can provide programs, but it is the individual to make use of the programs. We can plan Bible studies, Bible reading schemes, worship services, and more. But the Church cannot compel individuals to make use of these tools. Every believer is highly encouraged to make a conscious effort to use these means to climb higher in the knowledge of God. It is a pity that some believers condemn themselves to a mediocre walk with their God. They do themselves a disservice. They don’t get to taste the sweetness of the Lord. Let us do ourselves a good turn and refresh the disciplines we have in place for training us to grow in our Christian faith. If you have not yet determined on some disciplines with any regularity, I urge you to start right away. Just like athletes discipline themselves and follow a strict diet and a set exercise program so as to keep fit, we too need to discipline ourselves and intentionally exercise spiritually so as to master our unruly bodies and minds and emotions and bring them under subjection to Christ.
Here is a list of spiritual disciplines that many have found helpful all through history. You are not asked to practice all of them. Choose those that match your personality. Of course, the first two are a must if one is to get to know who God is. Here is the list
1. Regular prayer time at home once or more times a day.
2. Bible reading (At least six pages of chronological reading a day is a good minimum to set for yourself. You will have read through your Bible by the end of the year.)
3. Study –-studying the Bible using helps such as commentaries and other tools.
4. Meditating on the Word. It is a good practice to have on your mind all day a thought you garnered from your Bible reading, mulling over it. It can even form the basis for prayer.
11. Worship alone and with others
There’s no universally agreed-upon list of Christian disciplines. Some authorities add to the above list practices like silence, solitude, celebration, and others. We don’t need to have the list perfect. Let us not waste another moment lest we miss the bus. Off to Genesis 1 to start our individual Bible reading. “Fellow believer, “…train yourself to be godly. Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7b – 8 NLT). And I tell you we have to be intentional because we have two formidable enemies determined to keep us in a shallow relationship with God irrespective of how much we might know in terms of Bible content. Two enemies: ourselves, that is, our inertia and procrastination, and Satan. Both are deadly. Watch out. May the Spirit of God nudge us into action.
Happy New Year 2020.